When we accept the sacrifice of Christ to bring us back into communion with God, we begin a process called sanctification. I heard someone explain sanctification one time in such a great way: "God loves us too much to leave us the way we were."
Sanctification is when the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to change our habits, thoughts, and words to make us more Christ-like. This does not mean we are becoming better in order to earn our way into heaven. We know this because of what it says in Ephesians 2:8-9:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
and in Romans 10:9-10
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For
it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is
with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
We are sanctified because we are walking breathing gospels, not because we can earn anything ourselves. People look at us and see a representation of our God, and therefore we must represent him well. We are no longer in bondage to sin, so we have the opportunity to become more Christ-like.
Sanctification, my friends, can be very difficult. Especially since it requires our participation. That isn't to say you should run around the second you get saved and become a falsely perfect person. Sanctification requires us to listen to the Holy Spirits promptings, submit ourselves to God's will, and ask for forgiveness from sins we realize we are committing.
One of the hardest parts of sanctification is learning to let go of sinful past habits that may have a strong hold on us. Sometimes these habits are things that we truly love and have no desire to get rid of. We may be feeling a tickle in the back of our minds which tells us that what we are doing isn't right, but we ignore it because it is pleasurable. This is why even Christians struggle with things like pornography, fornication, adultry, violence, etc.
But sometimes Christians struggle with even more "minor" sins (personally I believe all sin is major, but I think WE think some are more major than others). Perhaps we take a lot of joy in playing violent video games, smoking, getting drukn, shopping over and above our means, or not giving our tithe. We know we should let go of these things, because there is a nudging in the back of our minds, but we make excuses and continue on our merry way.
Let me put myself out there and tell you about a sin I had a lot of difficulty giving up. I love to read, and I have not always been careful about the books I consume. Many of them contained themes I shouldn't have enjoyed reading about, like sex, violence, lust, etc. But I enjoyed them, and continued to read heavily despite my faith and the slight nudgings of the Holy Spirit telling me that this was not fit reading material for someone who should be a light of the world.
But in typical human fashion, I ignored the Holy Spirit, and continued on reading whatever I wanted. The reason? I ENJOYED IT! I had a few favorite authors I went back to time and again. Sure, I knew it was unfit reading material for a Christian. Sure, I knew I shouldn't be spending my time and money reading such things, but I enjoyed it and made excuses for it.
That was, until I was driving earlier this Summer to visit my family out of state. I was listening to Moody Radio, something I absolutely love, and one of the segments was talking about the Christian approach to sex. The radio announcer said something along the lines of "men are very visual, and often struggle with visual sexuality, like pornography or sexy photos or even immodestly dressed women at the supermarket. Women, on the other hand, tend to struggle with sexuality in the written word."
And THAT was the moment a ton of bricks fell on me. WOW! I literally was driving there with my mouth hanging open. I could not believe that the announcer had just compared my love for books with a mans struggle against pornography! I realized in that moment the magnitude of what I had been doing. I was feeding one of my innate weaknesses with garbage! Instead of stimulating my woman's love of the written word with uplifting or wholesome material, I was filling it with whatever was pleasureful. And often what was pleasurable to me was also sinful.
I made a decision and prayed then and there in the car. I decided to change my ways and be much more careful about the reading material I allowed into my mind.
Dear readers, we all have things we struggle with. Perhaps they are old habits we have carried along from our pre-Christ existence into our current life in Christ. I encourage all of you to begin praying in earnest about what God would have you change. Because we know that God works ALL things for our good, and if we are too busy polluting ourselves with earthly pleasures, we will never be able to experience the fullness of his goodness in our lives.
I love this quote: